Pork And A Heart-Healthy Diet
Patricia Zifferblatt | April 15, 2007

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Spring break is over, and everyone’s back to school and back to work. We all need something different to perk us up, and a special meal that’s also healthy is a good start.

So how long has it been since you served your family pork? For those of us who enjoyed a roasted pork dinner with all the trimmings in the past--and then had to quit enjoying it because the high fat content made pork inconsistent with a heart-healthy diet--it’s time to rejoice, because pork is back!

Farmers have changed the way hogs are bred and fed, and the result is a very lean, healthy, and enjoyable animal protein that can be welcomed back into our lives. Pork is a good source of several essential nutrients--no other meat has as much thiamin, and pork also has generous amounts of niacin and vitamin B6. But make sure that you’re purchasing a very lean cut of pork at the butcher shop or grocery--loin or leg is leanest.

But isn’t lean pork going to be dry and tough?
The good news is that pork no longer has to be cooked to death to be safe! In fact, overcooking pork is what makes it dry and tough. Because of new farming methods, trichinosis is virtually nonexistent in pork--and even if it were present, it would be killed at 137 degrees F. Pork is safe to eat when cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F--if the juices run very light pink, the pork is done, and the meat will be juicy and tender. If you’re cooking by color, stop cooking when there’s still a tiny bit of pink in the center.

Experts also suggest that you keep pork from drying out in the refrigerator by keeping it tightly wrapped, and avoid freezing pork whenever possible. The moisture lost during thawing results in less tender meat.

No time for a roast? Here are two quicker recipes
These two great recipes are both quick and easy to prepare--and delicious!

Pork Chops with Fruit-Preserve Sauce

4 pork loin chops, boneless, about 5 oz. each
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup no-sugar preserves--apricot, cherry, etc.
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Olive oil food spray

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and coat with olive-oil spray. Add salt and pepper to taste and brown chops in the uncovered skillet until done; a ¾-inch chop should take 6 to 10 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm while making sauce.

Add the preserves and vinegar to the pan and continue to cook for 1 minute. Place pork chops on a platter, pour fruit sauce over the top, and serve immediately to four people. Enjoy!

Variations of this recipe for Cola Barbeque Pork Chops have been kicking around for years, and it’s still a fun, tasty dish to serve your family. Part of the fun is watching the expression on your kids’ faces when you pour diet cola into the skillet!

Cola Barbeque Pork Chops

4 pork loin chops, boneless, about 5 oz. each
1 medium onion, sliced or chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup ketchup
¾ cup diet cola
Olive oil food spray

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and coat with olive-oil spray. Very lightly brown chops in the skillet; if you wish to add onion, remove chops and keep warm while browning the onion, then return chops to skillet. Stir in ketchup and cola. Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes (longer for thick chops). Remove lid, turn chops and simmer for another 20 minutes or until done; sauce will cook down, but watch so it doesn’t burn. Add salt and pepper to taste.

As an alternative, you can put it all in a pan, cover with foil, and bake for 45 to 60 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

Variety is the spice of life. Remember to keep it lean and light, and you can enjoy pork again!
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